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Bupleurum root (Bupleurum chinense, Bupleurum scorzoneraefolium, Bupleurum falcatum, Radix Bupleuri)

Bupleuri Radix, the dried roots of Bupleurum falcatum L. (Umbelliferae), which is a perennial medicinal herb distributed mainly in China, Korea, and Japan, is one of the most important ingredients in traditional Japanese Kampo and Chinese medicines. It is frequently prescribed in combination with other herbs to treat colds, fever, malaria, digestive disorders, chronic liver diseases, and depression

Bupleurum root (Bupleurum chinense, Bupleurum scorzoneraefolium, Bupleurum falcatum, Radix Bupleuri)


According to TCM theory, Radix Bupleuri is thought to regulate the exterior and interior metabolisms, disperse evil heat from superficies, soothe the liver, and promote yang and qi. Radix Bupleuri was initially recorded in Shennong Bencao Jing, a famous monograph of traditional Chinese medicine written in China in 200 AD. According to a record of traditional Chinese medicine dated 2000 years ago, Radix Bupleuri had mainly been used for the treatment of mouth bitterness, throat-drying, and eyes-dazzling. In other monographs of Materia Medica, such as Jin Kui Yao Lue, Kaibao Bencao, Bencao Gangmu, and Xinbian Bencao, this plant was described to be used for the treatment of common cold with fever, influenza, hepatitis, malaria, menoxenia, and hyperlipidemia. Currently, Radix Bupleuri exerts other pharmacological effects, such as balancing different organs and energies within the body, strengthening the action of the digestive tract, improving liver and circulatory system function, and relieving liver tension. Therefore, it is also used as a popular tonic herb in China. In Korea and Japan, this plant is commonly used for the treatment of fever, pain, and inflammation associated with influenza and the common cold. In addition, this plant is also used as an analgesic in the treatment of distending pain in the hypochondriac region of the chest and against amenorrhea. Important traditional Chinese herbal formulas such as Xiao Chai Hu Tang and Xiao Yao San contain bupleurum as a major ingredient.


More than 281 components have been isolated from Radix Bupleuri, including 15 flavonoids, 430 lignins, 12 phenyl propanol derivatives, 66 triterpenoid saponins, and 158 volatile oils all with diverse pharmacological effects

Clinical Studies

Preclinical studies suggest that bupleurum has antiviral, hepatoprotective, anti-inflammatory, immune-modulating, antiproliferative, and chemopreventive properties. Experiments suggest bupleurum might exert some influence over multidrug resistance in drug-resistant cells. Saikosaponins, a major constituent, enhanced cisplatin cytotoxicity against solid tumors.

In animal studies, bupleurum demonstrated inhibitory effects against allergic asthma. Experiments in both chronic mildly stressed and healthy rats describe differential effective and toxic responses. Saikosaponins were identified as the compound which may be responsible for bupleurum-induced liver injury.

Biomechanical Mechanism

The major pharmaceutical constituents of BF, including saikosaponin-a, saikosaponin-c, and saikosaponin-d aglycones, are in the roots, and are known to have immunological, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-allergic, and plasma cholesterol-lowering effects. Several studies have demonstrated the pharmacological effects of BF on the central nervous system (CNS) through modulation of the HPA axis. Some studies have also reported potent anti-hypertensive or vasodilator activities of BF in animal models of hypertension. BF was shown to affect the central dopaminergic and serotoninergic systems and to have a neuroprotective effect against excitotoxic neural death.

Saikosaponins in bupleurum appears to be the main constituent to which medicinal activities are attributed. In vitro studies indicate they exert anti-inflammatory effects by inhibiting arachidonic acid metabolism. Bupleurum polysaccharides also have anti-inflammatory properties, attributed to their inhibitory effect on LPS-mediated Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) signaling. The immunoregulatory activity of saikosaponin-d has been related to the promotion of interleukin-2 production and receptor expression as well as modulating T-lymphocyte function. However, saikosaponins were also identified as the compound which may be responsible for dose-dependent bupleurum-induced liver injury.

Apoptotic effects of bupleurum may be partly mediated by increased c-myc and p53 mRNA levels along with decreased bcl-2 mRNA levels, and by inhibition of telomerase activity. In some solid tumor cells, bupleurum demonstrated antiadhesive and hemolytic effects.


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